Emotional Commissioner Bratton gives public honor to slain cop Phil Cardillo, 43 years later

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BROOKLYN — An emotional Police Commissioner William Bratton cried at a podium in Brooklyn Tuesday, as he read the radio transmissions from April 14, 1972, which were summoning patrol cars to a location in Harlem.

"10-13, 102 West 116," Bratton relayed, to a crowd of current and long-retired police officers. 10-13 means police officer needs assistance.  The address was for Harlem Mosque # 7, run at that time by Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan.

One of the officers who responded that day in 1972 from the 28th Precinct was Patrolman Phillip Cardillo. When he got inside the mosque, he was beaten and then shot in the torso, by someone who grabbed his police gun.

Cardillo, a 31-year-old father of three, died six days later at St. Luke's Hospital, long after sixteen suspects detained in the mosque basement were let go.  The highest-ranking African-American in the department at the time, Benjamin Ward, had arrived on the scene with Congressman Charles Rangel and Farrakhan and ordered all white cops to leave.  Members of the mosque were allowed to mop up the crime scene.

When Cardillo was laid to rest, then-Mayor John Lindsey and Police Commissioner, Patrick Murphy, did not attend the funeral, because of heightened racial tensions at the time.  During a three year period, 26 police officers were killed by radical groups nationally. There was never any public memorial honoring Cardillo's sacrifice.

"It was a shame then," Bratton said tearfully,  "It's a shame now."

On Tuesday, Commissioner Bratton tried to right the wrong by dedicating a brand-new, 70-foot long NYPD harbor launch in Patrolman Cardillo's name, more than 43 years after Cardillo died in a Harlem hospital. Cardillo's youngest son, Todd -- who was only one year old when his father died -- attended the ceremony at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and christened the boat with a bottle of champagne.

"I am just clearly honored to be here," he told the crowd.

A year ago, PIX 11 had asked Bratton about the  possibility of honoring Patrolman Cardillo, after interviewing Todd Cardillo in Florida. Community Board 10 in Harlem was resisting the call for a street sign outside the 28th Precinct that would honor Cardillo’s line-of-duty death. Mayor Bill de Blasio said street signs should be left to the discretion of local community boards. Police Commissioner Bratton said then the NYPD was “perfectly positioned” to honor Cardillo within the department.

On Tuesday, Bratton made good on his word, bringing all his top deputy police commissioners and chiefs to the ceremony.

Mayor Bill de Blasio did not attend.

Earlier Tuesday, 81-year-old retired Patrolman Angelo Lomonaco arrived using a cane and asked to meet Todd.  He told PIX11 he drove the gravely wounded Phil Cardillo to St. Luke's Hospital on that day in 1972.

"It's always haunted me," Lomonaco told Todd Cardillo through tears, as he hugged Cardillo's son.

Also present, Cardillo's partner that day, Vito Navarro, who recalled seeing Cardillo getting beaten, by looking through a window in the mosque's front doors. Navarro shot out the glass so he could get back inside.

Randy Jurgensen, the detective hit with a brick in the melee outside the mosque, turned out for the dedication. Jurgensen wrote a book called "Circle of Six" chronicling how the murder case was bungled.

Police Commissioner Bratton reminded the assembled Tuesday, "No one has ever served a day in prison for the murder of this New York City police officer." There were two trials for suspect Louis 17X Dupree; the second ended with an acquittal.

Bratton pointed out that, like 1972, "we are still divided by issues of race and poverty."

Another face in the crowd who wanted to honor Patrolman Cardillo was retired detective, Rudy Andre. Andre drove up with his wife, Sharon, from Florida. It was Andre who came upon a bloodied Cardillo in the first floor of the mosque in April 1972, telling him, "God will look out for you, Philly."

Now, Patrolman Phillip Cardillo's boat will look out for all of the people of New York City, patrolling the harbor and rivers as one of the largest in the NYPD fleet.

And it looks like Patrolman Cardillo may get a street sign, after all.

In late July, City Council member, Paul Vallone, of Queens will submit a proposal to the Council’s Parks Committee, asking that a section of 28th Avenue in College Point, Queens be named for Patrolman Phillip Cardillo. The area in question is right outside the NYPD’s new Police Academy in College Point.  Last November, Community Board 7 voted unanimously to rename the street in Cardillo’s honor. Cardillo was raised in Astoria and lived in Queens before his death. His son, Todd, is cautiously hopeful the street sign will be approved before a full session of the Council.

But on this Tuesday, he was thrilled to enjoy the first ride on Harbor Launch 701.

As Police Commissioner Bratton put it so powerfully, “This harbor boat will carry Phil’s spirit every day and every night, as it carries his photograph and his name. And as it cuts through the waters of New York City…to protect, to serve, to do what Phil would have done…to go in harm’s way.”